James F. Wardner 
 
A Promoter of Gigantic Enterprises

 
"Jim" Wardner was born in Milwaukee in 1846, and spent most of his life in the middle of adventures and misadventures in many areas business, primarily mining.  He would go on to gain and lose many fortunes during his lifetime.  Somehow he found time to marry and have nine children.   
 
Wardner established the town of Wardner, Idaho and was highly successful in both real estate and banking along with his mining activities there.  
 

 
 


On on a trip to Montana, he met Nelson Bennett who convinced Wardner to come to Fairhaven and help n the development of this growing new town on Bellingham Bay.  In 1889, Jim Wardner moved to Fairhaven and immediately launched into various enterprises, purchasing multiple business lots in the heart of town, establishing two banks, and within a month, organizing the Fairhaven Water Works Company, and the Fairhaven Electric Light Co., just to name a few.  
 
James Wardner lived in Fairhaven for only a few short years, but he made an indelible mark on the growing community. One of his lasting legacies was this grand residence built in 1890 on top of the hill at 15th Street and Knox Avenue.    South-siders have enjoyed the view "Wardner's Castle" for 130 years.


                           May 4, 1951 Seattle Daily Times
Noted for his good humor and whimsical nature, Wardner launched one of the more outrageous hoaxes of his day.  Joking with a young reporter from the Fairhaven Herald, Wardner announced a new venture on Eliza Island to raise black cats, selling their pelts for a profit on the fur market.  He called his venture the Consolidated Black Cat Co., Ltd.  Due to Wardner’s reputation, the story was spread in media across the nation, and a number of investors lined up with the hope of cashing in on this novel venture.
 
While debunked as fiction, the tale of Wardner’s cat farm on Eliza Island lived on for many years.  

By 1893, the Fairhaven boom collapsed amid a nation-wide economic depression.  Wardner sold all his financial interests and moved on.  His next adventures took him to diamond mines in South Africa, mining operations, in British Columbia, establishing the town of Wardner, B.C., and the gold rush of the Klondike and Cape Nome. 

Jim Wardner's adventures made him a larger than life figure.  Then, while on a mining exploration in Nevada, he drank heartily of water in a stream that was contaminated with cyanide from a facility upstream. 
 
In 1903, newspapers nationwide described Wardner as "near death” from the effects of this poisoning, and a few reported he had died, but he largely recovered and ventured into Mexico in search of a silver mine in the state of Sonora.  His final adventure took place in early 1905 and resulted in being surrounded by the local Yaqui Indians before being rescued by Mexican troops at the  "request" of President Roosevelt.
 
Not long afterward, James F. Wardner passed away in El Paso, Texas on March 29, 1905 at the age of 59.    He was was laid to rest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he grew up.   Newspapers across the nation ran stories about Wardner's life, recounting exploits and changing finances and sadly, announcing his death.  
 
Jim Wardner asked that his burial marker be inscribed:  
 
"Oh where, and oh, where has Jim Wardner gone? Oh where, and oh, where is he?
With his tales of gold and his anecdotes old, And his new discover-ee?”
 
His grave is marked with simply his name and dates. 


 
 
  


 



 



 
 
 

 
 
 
 


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